July 2016

The Society’s committees have been working on a number of Scottish Parliament and UK Parliament Bills and consultations including immigration and asylum tribunal fees, the minimum age of criminal responsibility and the proposed secondary market for pension annuities.

Key areas are highlighted below. For more information see the law reform section of the website

European Union referendum

The vote to leave the EU marks the start of monumental change for the UK and our relationship with the rest of Europe. We will closely monitor the UK Government's negotiations with the EU as they develop during this transitional period through to the implementation of the final agreement. We will ensure that our members’ interests are represented to law and policy makers during this process and we will be assessing what the outcome of the negotiations will mean for our members: for your business, for practice rights, for the domestic legislative process and for our future interaction with the EU.

We have added a Q&A page to the EU referendum section on our website alongside the discussion paper we issued before the referendum, which considers the position of solicitors who are currently working in other EU jurisdictions as well as how particular areas of UK and Scots law stand to be affected by a UK exit from the EU.

You can find this information on the international section of the website

Minimum Age of Criminal Responsibility

The Criminal Law Committee has responded to a Scottish Government advisory group consultation on raising the age of criminal responsibility from eight to 12.

Scotland’s age of criminal responsibility is currently the lowest in Europe and we fully support the advisory group’s recommendation to raise it to 12. The interests of children must be paramount and it is crucial that their welfare is the focus of attention even in the difficult circumstances of offending behaviour. We do not think that children under the age of 12 should have their actions recorded as criminal.

We are concerned about the advisory group’s suggestion that the police should have an unspecified power of detention where a child’s parents or carers are not willing to cooperate with necessary enquiries by police or social workers.

The full consultation response is available to read on the law reform section of the website

Developments in Environmental Justice in Scotland

The Environmental Law Committee has responded to a Scottish Government consultation on whether further change is needed in the justice landscape to protect wildlife and the environment, and to provide better access to justice in civil environmental cases.

The SNP made a manifesto commitment in 2011 to the effect that it had received representations calling for the creation of an Environmental Court in Scotland. We believe, however, that environmental justice is much wider than the cases which come to court and we are concerned that this consultation considers only court reform rather than considering the wider system of environmental justice in Scotland.

It is our view that this consultation is too narrow in its scope and does not embrace the range of ways in which environmental justice can be sought.

The full consultation response is available to read on the law reform section of the website

Immigration and Asylum tribunal fees

The Immigration and Asylum Law Committee, Administrative Justice Law Committee and Access to Justice Committee have responded to a consultation from the Ministry of Justice on proposals to increase the fees currently charged in the First-tier Tribunal, and the introduction of fees for permission to appeal applications and for appeals heard in the Upper Tribunal.

We disagree with all proposals on fees for immigration and asylum appeals and are concerned by this approach to the duties and obligations under the Equality Act 2010. We do not believe that restricting access to justice to several groups of First-tier Tribunal service users can be considered justifiable on the grounds of following the principles of ‘Managing Public Money’. Restricting access to justice to some of the most vulnerable members of our society for financial reasons cannot be considered as acceptable policy in a democratic society founded on the rule of law.

The full consultation response is available to read on the law reform section of the website

Taxi and Private Hire Car Licensing

The Licensing Law Committee has responded to a Scottish Government consultation on the impact of modern technology on the licensing regime for taxis and private hire cars.

We believe that the influence of modern technology has created potential confusion between the separate regimes and that the Scottish Government should consider whether a fundamental overhaul of the two tier system, as it operates at present, is needed.

In the interests of public safety, both operators and drivers will have to continue to be licensed, so there needs to be clear thought given to whether further licensing is necessary.

The full consultation response is available to read on the law reform section of the website

Secondary Annuity Market

The Pensions Law Committee has responded to two separate consultations on the proposed secondary market for pension annuities.

The creation of a secondary annuities market is intended to extend greater flexibility and freedom to people who had little choice but to buy an annuity with their pension pot. We have responded to a consultation from HM Revenue & Customs which has laid out the proposed detail of the tax framework for the secondary market.

We have also responded to a Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) consultation on their proposed rules and guidance for these new regulated activities.

The full consultation response is available to read on the law reform section of the website